Speaker Spotlight: Mike McGrail


When Stipso were assembling the speaker lineup for Full Stack Marketing, they felt it was important that the Scottish marketing community and the small-agency worlds were represented — and fortunately, they found someone who fits both those criteria.

Turing Festival are delighted that our friend Mike McGrail, founder of Edinburgh agency Velocity Digital and one of the city's savviest marketers, will be joining us onstage on 21 August. He's going to explore recent shifts in the social media marketing landscape, with plenty of practical advice on what it takes to drive results with social.

What does your company do?

The simplest way to describe it is as helping businesses grow via strategic digital marketing. That spans social media, content, email and all of the key areas of digital, but with a very integrated approach. We're very data-driven and proud to take a bullshit-free approach.

What is your role there? What does a regular day look like for you?

Velocity Digital is very small — there's me and a very clever chap called Fino Hood who recently joined straight from university. I'm the digital marketing director, accountant, HR manager and everything in between! Our size isn't restrictive though, we deal with some large companies and the consultancy angle means we can be very fluid. We also work with a number of startup companies and that's an area I get immense pleasure from. 

A typical day will see me working on strategies for current clients, proposal for potential clients, crunching loads of data, writing blogposts, recording podcasts and consuming loads of content. And drinking coffee. Too much coffee. 

Give us some info on your professional background?

I studied marketing at university and have worked in it ever since, with digital being a focus since 2007. I started working with Google AdWords and display and have really progressed along with the industry into focussing on social and content, but ensuring I can offer value across the digital board. I've been blogging since 2007 and recently started the Velocity Marketing Podcast which has has had a great reception. I've also been a DJ, band manager, and football coach — variety is the spice of life indeed. 

What are you going to talk about at Turing?

I'm going to look at the shift in social towards a pay to play channel. This has really accelerated in the last 12-18 months and I think people need help to put it into context. We're at a point where achieving success in social media without putting hard cash into it is incredibly tough. I'm going to have a bit of fun with the audience by taking them on a journey through some terrible social ads - with the aim of showing them how to create great ads that work.

Why do you think that's important?

I see many businesses toil on with the old way of doing social, but they need to bring their use up to speed. Especially startups/new businesses - you'll struggle to get to your required audience without social media budget used in the right way.

For companies that are getting serious about marketing for the first time, where do you think they can get some quick wins? 

They need to tap into their knowledge and opinion and create some excellent content around that — whether that be blogs/articles, videos, infographics or whatever, that content is something they have at their finger-tips. Taking that content and putting some social media budget behind it (testing with small amounts) can be a nice starting point that should create a return, even just at an awareness level. The real challenge comes in capitalising on that awareness. I'd always tell any business to have a strategy and plan in place before they even embark on any activity though.

What common mistake do you see marketers making that drives you nuts?

Social media for the sake of social media. If you can't create a great presence for your business/clients etc, then you shouldn't be active within social — work it out before you start. 

And, just to wrap up, a quick-fire round to help our readers get to know you a little better...

  • Tea or coffee? Coffee
  • Wine or beer? Beer
  • Facebook or Twitter? Twitter
  • Android or iPhone? iPhone
  • Favourite city? Melbourne
  • Last book you read? The Martian.
  • Last gig you went to? Jurassic 5